The Senator Theater, located at the Northern edge of Baltimore, Maryland, is
one of the country's oldest operating movie theaters. It was voted as one of the four
best movie theaters in the U.S. by USA Today.
Opened originally in 1939, the Senator stands high above York Road just south of
Northern Parkway. Its art deco style sets it apart from the nearby shops and
restaurants. Through its first several owners, the Senator was like any other
one-screen film house in the country. When Tom Kiefaber purchased it in 1989,
however, things changed.
Kiefaber managed to get the theater listed in the National Register of Historic
Places and changed the programming for the theater to include first run films, art
films, and historically significant films. Starting with the Senator's 50th
anniversary celebration in October 1989 with the screening of The Wizard of Oz
(1939), attendance skyrocketed. Charm City had found its most charming theater.
Throughout the 90s, as multi-megaplexes raked in the money from the booming motion
picture business, Kiefaber kept the Senator popular by making movies more than just a
two hour escape from reality. Trips to the Senator became exciting social events
with a unique combination of 30s flavor and Kiefaber's hospitality -- he would introduce
every screening personally reminding the audience to enjoy the movie and not talk
during the engagement.
Like Mann's Chinese Theater in LA, the Senator hosts a walk of fame with hand,
foot and even cigar prints from stars attending premiere engagements at
the theater. Currently numbered at 55, the cement tributes include Sydney Pollack,
Shirley MacLaine, Terry Gilliam, and Ricki Lake.
The Senator has hosted the world premiere for a number of films by
Baltimore natives John Waters and Barry Levinson. The theater itself
was prominently featured in Levinson's Avalon and Waters' Cecil B. DeMented.
In 1999, the Senator Theater was chosen for a special engagement of Star Wars Episode I. Due to the high turnout for the Special Edition trilogy release in 1997, and the custom sound system in the theater (certified for SDDS, THX and who knows how many other standards), an experimental new type of print was issued for the theater with higher color accuracy than normal film stock and a special digital sound track.
For more information, including schedules and ticket purchases, visit the
theater's website at www.senator.com.
The Senator showed its final screening on March 15, 2009 before being forced to shut down due to foreclosure. The last film was Watchmen.